Not on display
Harold Gilman painted this picture at his parents’ home at the Rectory in Snargate, Kent, where his father was the local vicar. Standing next to the church, the Rectory was built in 1891 and first occupied by Gilman’s father. After his father’s death in 1917 it was sold, and so he was the only rector to live there; it has since been known as The Old Rectory.1 The painting shows Gilman’s youngest sister Irene Beatrice Gilman (1877–1944) seated in the drawing room. According to her daughter, Betty Powell, Irene was a frequent model for her brother.2 She also appears in Tate’s Lady on a Sofa (Tate N05831). Irene was apparently Harold’s favourite sister, and they were very close. She was nicknamed ‘The Imp’ by her family, as she was very small, and this explains why it has been thought to be a young girl in this picture, when in fact she was about thirty when it was painted.
There is a group of oriental items on a lacquer cabinet in the corner of the room, including two vases, still in the family’s possession, a bowl and a figure on a stand. These may have been sent back by Gilman’s brother Leofric, who worked in Hong Kong until 1914.3 However, they may have been products of the family’s longer-standing connections with the Far East; Gilman’s grandfather Ellis had founded a tea company in Hong Kong.4 Gilman was often to paint figures turned away in profile, but this extreme example where the figure is virtually facing the wall seems rather strange; it could be that Irene is contemplating the objects. Gilman’s widow Sylvia was unable to identify any of the pictures on the wall, although she wrote that the family ‘had many photographs and early watercolours’.5 However, the picture seen hanging at the top left of Edwardian Interior is Gilman’s own Portrait of a Lady c.1905 (Aberdeen Art Gallery),6 a portrait of his first wife Grace (née Canedy).
The first owner of Edwardian Interior was the artist Hubert Wellington (1879–1967), a friend of Gilman’s from the time they were at the Slade together. He recalled in a letter to the Tate Gallery dated 6 October 1955:
Information provided by Judith Peppitt.
Conversation with the author, 20 May 1993.
Information from Barbara Duce, daughter of Gilman’s brother John, Tate Catalogue file.
See Harold Gilman and William Ratcliffe, exhibition catalogue, Southampton City Art Gallery 2002, p.9.
Sylvia Gilman, letter to Tate Gallery, 26 September 1957, Tate Catalogue file.
Reproduced in Harold Gilman 1876–1919, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council, London 1981 (4).
Director of Alex, Reid and Lefevre.
Hubert Wellington, letter to Tate Gallery, 6 October 1955, Tate Catalogue file.
Reproduced in Bruce Arnold, Orpen: Mirror to an Age, London 1981, p.100.
Reproduced ibid., p.114.
T. M.[artin] W.[ood], ‘The New English Art Club’s Summer Exhibition’, Studio, no.47, 1909, p.178; see Richard Thomson, ‘Gilman’s Subjects: Some Observations’, in Arts Council 1981, p.24.
Reproduced in Arnold 1981, p.231.
Reproduced in Arts Council 1981, p.25.
See David Fraser Jenkins, ‘Orpen, Ibsen and the Plays within the Play’, in William Orpen: Politics, Sex and Death, exhibition catalogue, Imperial War Museum, London 2005, pp.53–61.
Andrew Causey, ‘Harold Gilman: An Englishman and Post-Impressionism’, in Arts Council 1981, p.3.
Charles Ginner, ‘Harold Gilman: An Appreciation’, in Memorial Exhibition of Works by the Late Harold Gilman, exhibition catalogue, Leicester Galleries, London 1919, pp.3–4.
Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman: An Appreciation, London 1919, pp.19–20.
Reproduced in Arts Council 1981, p.21.
Lewis and Fergusson 1919, p.28.